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OSHA 1910.138: Hand Protection

“The OSHA 1910.138 statute is instrumental in defining that the proper glove protection should be chosen when hazards are present. This selection process is a complex one when consumers realize the multiple hazards that a workforce can be exposed to, along with the vast amount of hand protection options in the market. At SHOWA, resources for consumer inquiries for hand protection selection is a top priority so consumers receive the proper recommendations for the hazard/s at hand. Regardless of the hazards, SHOWA is always there to make sure that our customers have the correct hand PPE option for their workforce to get any job done.”

Brian Moseley, R&D Technical Manager, SHOWA Group. 1-800-241-0323, www.showagroup.com

The human hand is an extraordinarily complex extremity, capable of performing a broad range of movements. Thanks to its array of muscles, tendons and ligaments, the hand can perform fine motor tasks and big movements by extending fingers, flexing, turning the palm upward or downward, gripping and grasping items. Because of the vital role that hands play in the workplace – and elsewhere – they are often exposed to hazards, and thus susceptible to injuries. These include cuts and lacerations, finger and hand amputations, fractures, burns, punctures, crush injuries and nerve damage.

Key Provisions

OSHA 1910.138 Hand Protection is one of the agency’s more succinct regulations:

1910.138(a)

General requirements. Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.

1910.138(b)

Selection. Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.

Hand Injuries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics[1] (BLS) there were 102,350 nonfatal hand injuries in private industry involving days away from work in 2020, along with 37,300 arm injuries and 28,410 wrist injuries. The BLS days-away-from-work data is also available for specific industries. The following figures reflect the numbers of hand injuries in 2020 per 10,000 full-time workers:

  • All industries – 10.5
  • Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production – 28.5
  • Manufacturing – 17.9
  • Natural resources and mining – 20.2
  • Animal production and aquaculture – 44.4
  • Forestry and logging – 7.8
  • Construction – 14.2 (residential building construction was 25.3)
  • Specialty trade contractors – 14.7
  • Building equipment contractors – 11.3
  • Manufacturing – 19.7

Employers are responsible for providing their workers with all the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to carry out their jobs safely – including gloves. There are glove types to address virtually every kind of workplace hazard that employees’ hands may be exposed to: fabric gloves coated with latex, nitrile, polyurethane and PVC; latex and nitrile gloves that protect against oils, solvents, chemicals, grease and biohazards; leather gloves that shield hands from sharp objects, abrasive surfaces and heat; and gloves designed specifically to resist punctures, impact and vibrations. A thorough hazard assessment will identify the particular hazards present in the workplace. A successful hand protection program will take into account:

  • Protection levels
  • Dexterity requirements, so that the wearer is able to perform the necessary tasks
  • Size and fit

Gloves that have sustained significant wear and tear should be discarded.

For More Information

The Numbers

Citations regarding this standard by Federal OSHA for inspections during the period October 2021 through September 2022:

[1]www.bls.gov/iif/nonfatal-injuries-and-illnesses-tables/case-and-demographic-characteristics-table-r2-2020.htm

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